Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics Part 31

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V.--The conception of Law enters largely into Kant's theory of morals, but in a sense purely transcendental, and not as subjecting or a.s.similating morality to positive political inst.i.tution. The _Legality_ of external _actions_, as well as the _Morality_ of internal _dispositions_, is determined by reference to the one universal moral Imperative. The principle underlying all _legal_ or _jural_ (as opposed to moral or ethical) provisions, is the necessity of uniting in a universal law of freedom the spontaneity of each with the spontaneity of all the others: individual freedom and freedom of all must be made to subsist together in a universal law.

VI.--With Kant, Religion and Morality are very closely connected, or, in a sense, even identified; but the alliance is not at the expense of Morality. So far from making this dependent on Religion, he can find nothing but the moral conviction whereon to establish the religious doctrines of Immortality and the Existence of G.o.d; while, in a special work, he declares further that Religion consists merely in the practice of Morality as a system of divine commands, and claims to judge of all religious inst.i.tutions and dogmas by the moral consciousness. Besides, the Postulates themselves, in which the pa.s.sage to Religion is made, are not all equally imperative,--Freedom, as the ground of the fact of Duty, being more urgently demanded than others; and he even goes so far as to make the allowance, that whoever has sufficient moral strength to fulfil the Law of Reason without them, is not required to subscribe to them.

The modern French school, that has arisen in this century under the combined influence of the Scotch and the German philosophy, has bestowed some attention on Ethics. We end by noticing under it Cousin and Jouffroy.

VICTOR COUSIN. [1792-1867.]

The a.n.a.lysis of Cousin's ethical views is made upon his historical lectures _Sur les Idees du Vrai, du Beau et du Bien_, as delivered in 1817-18. They contain a dogmatic exposition of his own opinions, beginning at the 20th lecture; the three preceding lectures, in the section of the whole course devoted to the Good, being taken up with the preliminary review of other opinions required for his eclectical purpose.

He determines to consider, by way of psychological a.n.a.lysis, the ideas and sentiments of every kind called up by the spectacle of human actions; and first he notes actions that please and displease the senses, or in some way affect our interest: those that are agreeable and useful we naturally choose, avoiding the opposites, and in this we are _prudent_. But there is another set of actions, having no reference to our own personal interest, which yet we qualify as good or bad. When an armed robber kills and spoils a defenceless man, we, though beholding the sight in safety, are at once stirred up to disinterested horror and indignation. This is no mere pa.s.sing sentiment, but includes a two-fold judgment, p.r.o.nounced then and ever after; that the action is in itself bad, and that it ought not to be committed. Still farther, our anger implies that the object of it is conscious of the evil and the obligation, and is therefore responsible; wherein again is implied that he is a free agent. And, finally, demanding as we do that he should be punished, we pa.s.s what has been called a judgment of merit and demerit, which is built upon an idea in our minds of a supreme law, joining happiness to virtue and misfortune to crime.

The a.n.a.lysis thus far he claims to be strictly scientific; he now proceeds to vary the case, taking actions of our own. I am supposed entrusted by a dying friend with a deposit for another, and a struggle ensues between interest and probity as to whether I should pay it. If interest conquers, remorse ensues. He paints the state of remorse, and a.n.a.lyzes it into the same elements as before, the idea of _good_ and _evil_, of an _obligatory law_, of _liberty_, of _merit_ and _demerit_; it thus includes the whole phenomenon of morality. The exactly opposite state that follows upon the victory of probity, is proved to imply the same facts.

The Moral Sentiment, so striking in its character, has by some been supposed the foundation of all morality, but in point of fact it is itself const.i.tuted by these various judgments. Now that they are known to stand as its elements, he goes on to subject each to a stricter a.n.a.lysis, taking first the judgment of _good_ and _evil_, which is at the bottom of all the rest. It lies in the original const.i.tution of human nature, being simple and indecomposable, like the judgment of the True and the Beautiful. It is absolute, and cannot be withheld in presence of certain acts; but it only declares, and does not const.i.tute, good and evil, these being real and independent qualities of actions. Applied at first to special cases, the judgment of good gives birth to general principles that become rules for judging other actions. Like other sciences, morality has its axioms, justly called moral truths; if it is good to keep an oath, it is also true, the oath being made with no other purpose than to be kept. Faithful guarding as much belongs to the idea of a deposit, as the equality between its three angles and two right angles to the idea of a triangle. By no caprice or effort of will can a moral verity be made in the smallest degree other than it is.

But, he goes on, a moral verity is not simply to be believed; it must also be practised, and this is _obligation_, the second of the elements of moral sentiment. Obligation, like moral truth, on which it rests, is absolute, immutable, universal. Kant even went so far as to make it the principle of our morality; but this was subjectivizing good, as he had subjectivized truth. Before there is an obligation to act, there must be an intrinsic goodness in the action; the real first truth of morality is justics, _i.e._, the essential distinction of good and evil. It is justice, therefore, and not duty, that strictly deserves the name of a principle.

The next element is _liberty_. Obligation implies the faculty of resisting desire, pa.s.sion, &c., else there would be a contradiction in human nature. But the truest proof of liberty is to be sought in the constant testimony of consciousness, that, in wishing this or that, I am equally able to will the contrary. He distinguishes between the power of willing and the power of executing; also between will and desire, or pa.s.sion. In the conflict between will and the tyranny of desire lies liberty; and the aim of the conflict is the fulfilment of duty. For the will is never so free, never so much itself, as when yielding to the law of duty. Persons are distinguished from Things in having responsibility, dignity, intrinsic value. Because there is in me a being worthy of respect, I am bound in duty to respect myself, and I have the _right_ to be respected by you. My duty (he means, of course, what I owe to self) is the exact measure of my right. The character of being a _person_ is inviolable, is the foundation of property, is inalienable by self or others, and so forth.

He pa.s.ses to the last element of the phenomenon of morality, the judgement of _merit_ and _demerit_. The judgement follows, as the agent is supposed free, and it is not affected by lapse of time. It depends also essentially on the idea that the agent knows good from evil. Upon itself follow the notions of reward and punishment. Merit is the natural right to be rewarded; demerit, paradox as it may appear, is the _right_ to be punished. A criminal would claim to be punished, if he could comprehend the absolute necessity of expiation; and are there not real cases of such criminals? But as there can be merit without actual reward, so to be rewarded does not const.i.tute merit.

If good, he continues, is good in itself, and ought to be done without regard to consequences, it is no less true that the consequences of good cannot fail to be happy. Virtue without happiness and crime without misfortune are a contradiction, a disorder; which are hardly met with in the world, even as it is, or, where in a few cases they are found, are sure to be righted in the end by eternal justice. The sacrifice supposed in virtue, if generously accepted and courageously undergone, has to be recompensed in respect of the amount of happiness sacrificed.

Once more, he takes up the _Sentiment_, which is the general echo of all the elements of the phenomenon. Its end is to make the mind sensible of the bond between virtue and happiness; it is the direct and vivid application of the law of merit. Again, he touches the states of moral satisfaction and remorse, speaks of our sympathy with the moral goodness of others and our benevolent feeling that arises towards them--emotions all, but covering up judgments; and this is the end of his detailed a.n.a.lysis of the actual facts of the case. But he still goes on to sum up in exact expressions the foregoing results, and he claims especially to have overlooked neither the part played by Reason, nor the function of Sentiment. The rational character of the idea of good gives morality its firm foundation; the lively sentiment helps to lighten the often heavy burden of duty, and stirs up to the most heroic deeds. Self-interest too is not denied its place. In this connexion, led again to allude to the happiness appointed to virtue here or at least hereafter, he allows that G.o.d may be regarded as the fountain of morality, but only in the sense that his will is the expression of his eternal wisdom and justice. Religion crowns morality, but morality is based upon itself. The rest of the lecture is in praise of Eclecticism, and advocates consideration of all the facts involved in morality, as against exclusive theories founded upon only some of the facts.

Lectures 21st and 22nd, compressed into one (Ed. 1846) contain the application of the foregoing principles, and the answer to the question, what our duties are. Duty being absolute, truth becomes obligatory, and absolute truth being known by the reason only, to obey the law of duty is to obey reason. But what actions are conformable to reason? The characteristic of reason he takes to be Universality, and this will appear in the motives of actions, since it is these that confer on actions their morality. Accordingly, the sign whereby to discover whether an action is duty, is, if its motive when generalized appear to the reason to be a maxim of universal legislation for all free and intelligent beings. This, the norm set up by Kant, as certainly discovers what is and is not duty, as the syllogism detects the error and truth of an argument.

To obey reason is, then, the first duty, at the root of all others, and itself resting directly upon the relation between liberty and reason; in a sense, to remain reasonable is the sole duty. But it a.s.sumes special forms amid the diversity of human relations. He first considers the relations wherein we stand to ourselves and the corresponding duties. That there should be any such duties is at first sight strange, seeing we belong to ourselves; but this is not the same as having complete power over ourselves. Possessing liberty, we must not abdicate it by yielding to pa.s.sions, and treat ourselves as if there were nothing in us that merits respect. We are to distinguish between what is peculiar to each of us, and what we share with humanity. Individual peculiarities are things indifferent, but the liberty and intelligence that const.i.tute us persons, rather than individuals, demand to be respected even by ourselves. There is an obligation of self-respect imposed upon us as moral persons that was not established, and is not to be destroyed, by us. As special cases of this respect of the moral person in us, he cites (1) the duty of _self-control_ against anger or melancholy, not for their pernicious consequences, but as trenching upon the moral dignity of liberty and intelligence; (2) the duty of _prudence_, meaning providence in all things, which regulates courage, enjoins temperance, is, as the ancients said, the mother of all the virtues,--in short, the government of liberty by reason; (3) _veracity_; (4) duty towards the _body_; (5) duty of _perfecting_ (and not merely keeping intact) the intelligence, liberty, and sensibility that const.i.tute us moral beings.

But the same liberty and intelligence that const.i.tute me a moral person, and need thus to be respected even by myself, exist also in others, conferring rights on them, and imposing new duties of respect on me relatively to them. To their intelligence I owe _Truth_; their liberty I am bound to respect, sometimes even to the extent of not hindering them from making a wrong use of it. I must respect also their affections (family, &c.) which form part of themselves; their bodies; their goods, whether acquired by labour or heritage. All these duties are summed up in the one great duty of _Justice_ or respect for the rights of others; of which the greatest violation is slavery.

The whole of duty towards others is not however comprehended in justice. Conscience complains, if we have only not done injustice to one in suffering. There is a new cla.s.s of duties--_consolation, charity, sacrifice_--to which indeed correspond no rights, and which therefore are not so obligatory as justice, but which cannot be said not to be obligatory. From their nature, they cannot be reduced to an exact formula; their beauty lies in liberty. But in charity, he adds, there is also a danger, from its effacing, to a certain extent, the moral personality of the object of it. In acting upon others, we risk interfering with their natural rights; charity is therefore to be proportioned to the liberty and reason of the person benefited, and is never to be made the means of usurping power over another.

Justice and Charity are the two elements composing social morality. But what is social? and on what is Society founded, existing as it does everywhere, and making man to be what he is? Into the hopeless question of its origin he refuses to enter; its present state is to be studied by the light of the knowledge of human nature. Its invariable foundations are (1) the need we have of each other, and our social instincts, (2) the lasting and indestructible idea and sentiment of right and justice. The need and instinct, of which he finds many proofs, begin society; justice crowns the work. The least consideration of the relations of man to man, suggest the essential principles of Society--justice, liberty, equality, government, punishment. Into each of these he enters. Liberty is made out to be a.s.sured and developed in society, instead of diminished. Equality is established upon the character of moral personality, which admits of no degree. The need of some repression upon liberty, where the liberty of others is trenched upon, conducts to the idea of Government--a disinterested third party armed with the necessary power to a.s.sure and defend the liberty of all.

To government is to be ascribed, first its inseparable function of protecting the common liberty (without unnecessary repression), and next, beneficent action, corresponding to the duty of charity. It requires, for its guidance, a rule superior to itself, i.e., law, the expression of universal and absolute justice. Here follows the usual distinction of positive and natural law. The sanction of law is punishment; the right of punishing, as was seen, depending on the idea of demerit. Punishment is not mere vengeance, but the expiation by the criminal of violated justice; it is to be measured therefore chiefly by the demerit and not by the injury only. Whether, in punishing, allowance should be made for correction and amelioration, is to put the same case over again of charity coming in after justice.

Here the philosopher stops on the threshold of the special science of politics. But already the fixed and invariable principles of society and government have been given, and, even in the relative sphere of politics, the rule still holds that all forms and inst.i.tutions are to be moulded as far as possible on the eternal principles supplied by philosophy. The following is a summary of Cousin's views:--

I.--The Standard is the judgment of good or evil in actions. Cousin holds that good and evil are qualities of actions independent of our judgment, and having a sort of objective existence.

II.--The Moral Faculty he a.n.a.lyzes into four judgments: (1) good and evil; (2) obligation; (3) freedom of the will; and (4) merit and demerit. The moral sentiment is the emotions connected with those judgments, and chiefly the feeling connected with the idea of merit.

[This a.n.a.lysis is obviously redundant. 'Good' and 'evil' apply to many things outside ethics, and to be at all appropriate, they must be qualified as _moral_ (i.e., _obligatory_) good and evil. The connexion between obligation and demerit has been previously explained.]

III.--In regard to the Summum Bonum, Cousin considers that virtue must bring happiness here or hereafter, and vice, misery.

IV.--He accepts the criterion of duties set forth by Kant. He argues for the existence of duties towards ourselves.

V. and VI. require no remark.


In the Second Lecture of his unfinished _Cours de Droit Naturel_, Jouffroy gives a condensed exposition of the Moral Facts of human nature from his own point of view.

What distinguishes, he says, one being from another, is its Organization; and as having a special nature, every creature has a special end. Its end or destination is its good, or its good consists in the accomplishment of its end. Further, to have an end implies the possession of faculties wherewith to attain it; and all this is applicable also to man. In man, as in other creatures, from the very first, his nature tends to its end, by means of purely instinctive movements, which may be called primitive and instinctive tendencies of human nature; later they are called pa.s.sions. Along with these tendencies, and under their influence, the intellectual faculties also awake and seek to procure for them satisfaction. The faculties work, however, at first, in an indeterminate fashion, and only by meeting obstacles are driven to the concentration necessary to attain the ends.

He ill.u.s.trates this by the case of the intellectual faculty seeking to satisfy the desire of knowledge, and not succeeding until it concentrates on a single point its scattered energies. This spontaneous concentration is the first manifestation of Will, but is proved to be not natural from the feeling of constraint always experienced, and the glad rebound, after effort, to tho indeterminate condition. One fact, too, remains even after every thing possible has been done, viz., that the satisfaction of the primitive tendencies is never quite complete.

When, however, such satisfaction as may be, has been attained, there arises pleasure; and pain, when our faculties fail to attain the good or end they sought. There could be action, successful and unsuccessful, and so good and evil, without any sensibility, wherefore good and evil are not to be confounded with pain and pleasure; but const.i.tuted as we are, there is a sensible echo that varies according as the result of action is attained or not. Pleasure is, then, the consequence, and, as it were, the sign of the realization of good, and pain of its privation.

He next distinguishes Secondary pa.s.sions from the great primary tendencies and pa.s.sions. These arise _apropos_ of external objects, as they are found to further or oppose the satisfaction of the fundamental tendencies. Such objects are then called _useful_ or _pernicious_.

Finally, he completes his account of the infantile or primitive condition of man, by remarking that some of our natural tendencies, like Sympathy, are entirely disinterested in seeking the good of others. The main feature of the whole primitive state is the exclusive domination of pa.s.sion. The will already exists, but there is no liberty; the present pa.s.sion triumphs over the future, the stronger over the weaker.

He now pa.s.ses to consider the double transformation of this original state, that takes place when reason appears. Reason is the faculty of _comprehending_, which is different from knowing, and is peculiar to man. As soon as it awakes in man, it comprehends, and penetrates to the meaning of, the whole spectacle of human activity. It first forms the general idea of _Good_ as the resultant of the satisfaction of all the primary tendencies, and as the true End of man. Then, comprehending the actual situation of man, it resolves this idea into the idea of the _greatest possible_ good. All that conduces to the attainment of this good, it includes under the general idea of the _Useful_; and finally, it constructs the general idea of _Happiness_ out of all that is common to the agreeable sensations that follow upon the satisfaction of the primary tendencies.

But besides forming these three perfectly distinct ideas, and exploring the secret of what has been pa.s.sing within, the reason also comprehends the necessity of subjecting to control the faculties and forces that are the condition of the greatest satisfaction of human nature. In the place of the merely mechanical impulsion of pa.s.sion, which is coupled with grave disadvantages, it puts forward, as a new principle of action, the rational calculation of interest. The faculties are brought into the service of this idea of the reason, by the same process of concentration as was needful in satisfying the pa.s.sions; only now voluntarily instead of spontaneously. Being an idea instead of a pa.s.sion, the new principle supplies a real _motive_, under whose guidance our natural power over our faculties is developed and strengthened. All partial ends are merged in the one great End of Interest, to which the means is self-control. The first great change thus wrought by reason is, that it takes the direction of the human forces into its own hand, and although, even when by a natural transformation the new system of conduct acquires all the force of a pa.s.sion, it is not able steadily to procure for the idea of interest the victory over the single pa.s.sions, the change nevertheless abides.

To the state of Pa.s.sion has succeeded the state of Egoism.

Reason must, however, he thinks, make another discovery before there is a truly moral state--must from general ideas rise to ideas that are universal and absolute. There is no real equation, he holds, between Good and the satisfaction of the primitive tendencies, which is the good of egoism. Not till the special ends of all creatures are regarded as elements of one great End of creation, of Universal Order, do we obtain an idea whose equivalence to the idea of the Good requires no proof. The special ends are good, because, through their realization, the end of creation, which is the absolute Good, is realized; hence they acquire the sacred character that it has in the eye of reason.

No sooner is the idea of Universal Order present to the reason, than it is recognized as an absolute law; and, in consequence, the special end of our being, by partic.i.p.ation in its character of goodness and sacredness, is henceforth pursued as a duty, and its satisfaction claimed as a right. Also every creature a.s.sumes the same position, and we no longer merely concede that others have tendencies to be satisfied, and consent from Sympathy or Egoism to promote their good; but the idea of Universal Order makes it as much our duty to respect and contribute to the accomplishment of their good as to accomplish our own. From the idea of good-in-itself, i.e., Order, flow all duty, right, obligation, morality, and natural legislation.

He carries the idea of Order still farther back to the Deity, making it the expression of the divine thought, and opening up the religious side of morality; but he does not mean that its obligatoriness as regards the reason is thereby increased. He also identifies it, in the last resort, with the ideas of the Beautiful and the True.

We have now reached the truly moral condition, a state perfectly distinct from either of the foregoing. Even when the egoistic and the moral determination prescribe the same conduct, the one only counsels, while the other obliges. The one, having in view only the greatest satisfaction of our nature, is personal even when counselling benefits to others; the other regarding only the law of Order, something distinct from self, is impersonal, even when prescribing our own good.

Hence there is in the latter case _devouement_ of self to something else, and it is exactly the _devouement_ to a something that is not self, but is regarded as good, that gets the name of virtue or moral good. Moral good is voluntary and intelligent obedience to the law that is the rule of our conduct. As an additional distinction between the egoistic and the moral determination, he mentions the judgment of merit or demerit that ensues upon actions when, and only when, they have a moral character. No remorse follows an act of mere imprudence involving no violation of universal order.

He denies that there is any real contradiction among the three different determinations. Nothing is prescribed in the moral law that is not also in accordance with some primitive tendency, and with self-interest rightly understood; if it were not so, it would go hard with virtue. On the other hand, if everything not done from regard to duty were opposed to moral law and order, society could not only not subsist, but would never have been formed. When a struggle does ensue between pa.s.sion and self-interest, pa.s.sion is blind; when between egoism and the moral determination, egoism is at fault. It is in the true interest of Pa.s.sion to be sacrificed to Egoism, and of Egoism to be sacrificed to Order.

He closes the review of the various moral facts by explaining in what sense the succession of the three states is to be understood. The state of Pa.s.sion is historically first, but the Egoistic and the Moral states are not so sharply defined. As soon as reason dawns it introduces the moral motive as well as the egoistic, and to this extent the two states are contemporaneous. Only, so far is the moral law from being at this stage fully conceived, that, in the majority of men, it is never conceived in its full clearness at all. Their confused idea of moral law is the so-called moral _conscience_, which works more like a sense or an instinct, and is inferior to the clear rational conception in everything except that it conveys the full force of obligation. In its grades of guilt human justice rightly makes allowance for different degrees of intelligence. The Egoistic determination and the Moral state, such as it is, once developed, pa.s.sion is not to be supposed abolished, but henceforth what really takes place in all is a perpetual alternation of the various states. Yet though no man is able exclusively to follow the moral determination, and no man will constantly be under the influence of any one of the motives, there is one motive commonly uppermost whereby each can be characterized. Thus men, according to their habitual conduct, are known as pa.s.sionate, egoistic, or virtuous.

We now summarize the opinions of Jouffroy:--

I.--The Standard is the Idea of Absolute Good or Universal Order in the sense explained by the author. Like Cousin, he identifies the 'good'

with the 'true.' What, then, is the criterion that distinguishes moral from other truths? If _obligation_ be selected as the _differentia_, it is in effect to give up the attempt to determine what truths are obligatory. The idea of 'good' is obviously too vague to be a _differentia_. How far the idea of 'Universal Order' gets us out of the difficulty may be doubted, especially after the candid admission of the author, that it is an idea of which the majority of men have never any very clear notions.

II.--The moral faculty is Reason; Conscience is hardly more than a confused feeling of obligatoriness.

Sympathy is one of the primitive tendencies of our nature. Jouffroy's opinion on the subject is open to the objections urged against Butler's psychology.

He upholds the freedom of the Will, but embarra.s.ses his argument by admitting, like Reid, that there is a stage in our existence when we are ruled by the pa.s.sions, and are dest.i.tute of liberty.

III.--The Summum Bonum is the _end_ of every creature; the pa.s.sions ought to be subordinated to self-interest, and self-interest to morality.

In regard to the other points, it is unnecessary to continue the summary.


[Footnote 1: Duties strictly so called, the department of obligatory morality, enforced by punishment, may be exemplified in the following cla.s.sified summary:--

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Moral Science; a Compendium of Ethics Part 31 summary

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